How to travel to Sapa from Hanoi

Sapa is a hill station located on 1,500m above sea level in Lao Cai Province in the North-West of Vietnam. There are 7 ethnic groups inhabiting the mountains of Sapa. The township was built into a hill station first by the French for the colonialists to get away from the delta heat in the summer.

 Nowadays, Sapa is among the most popular tourist attractions in Vietnam for both foreign visitors and Vietnamese tourists. Sapa is 400km from Hanoi. While there is a plan for an airport at Bao Yen Lao Cai, traveling by air from Hanoi to Sapa is not an option for now. Below are the available choices as to how to travel to Sapa from Hanoi.

Sapa rice terraces
Sapa rice terraces

By private car: the road trip by private car is the most convenient way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa. The traffic is not busy, the highway from Hanoi to Sapa is excellent. The total one-way trip should take around 5 hours.

By local bus: There are several local buses and vans from Hanoi to Sapa. The pickup points in Hanoi are near the Old Quarter: at Tran Quang Khai Street and the Opera House. The drop-off point is at the center of Sapa Town. The ticket costs are 250.000VND-400.000VND/one-way ticket. All buses and vans have air-conditioning nowadays. A bus trip should take about 6 hours to get to Sapa from Hanoi.

By train: There are 3 overnight trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai. The train trip takes 8 hours. All trains have air-conditioned soft sleeper compartments with either 4 sleepers or 6 sleepers per compartment. Traveling by train is fun, safe and comfortable. The inconvenience is that the train stops at Lao Cai and passengers will have to take local buses to get to Sapa. The train company offers options for booking bus service to Sapa when booking the train tickets though.

By motorbike: The road by motorbike from Hanoi to Sapa is Route 2 to Viet Tri then turn into Route 70 at Doan Hung (Phu Tho Province). While Route 2 is good, Route 70 is in dilapidation and dangerous with several blind curves. The traffic is not busy on Route 70 though and the scenery is quite nice with mountains and narrow stretches of rice fields. The 40km from Lao Cai to Sapa the road goes up a mountainous road with beautiful scenery.

By bicycle: It is not convenient to travel from Hanoi to Sapa by bicycle but you can certainly do that. The route is like for motorbikes as above and the trip should take a couple of days for a really fit cyclist.